Tuesday, 8 November 2016

A Debt to Catherine.

Over the past ten days of unseasonably frigid weather in Britain I’ve been quaffing unusually high quantities of hot tea (not that tea stays hot for more than about thirty seconds in this house during the winter, but you know what I mean.) And today I discovered an interesting fact: Apparently, we have Catherine of Braganza – wife of King Charles II – to thank for introducing the tea habit to the British aristocracy, whence it subsequently percolated down to we lesser mortals.

What’s of some personal interest to me is that I was born and raised in the city of Stoke on Trent (or Joke on Trent as it’s affectionately known to the locals) and Stoke owes its meteoric rise during the Industrial Revolution to the production of ceramics. (Its pottery industry is now reduced to a fraction of what it was because Mrs Thatcher considered shopping malls to be more important than factories, but that’s by the by.)

What isn’t by the by the by, however, is the reason why the ceramics industry burgeoned during the 18th and 19th centuries. It was largely due, or so I’m reliably informed, to the increasing social habit of taking hot beverages such as tea, instead of cold ones such as beer and dirty water. And hot beverages taste better when drunk out of ceramic vessels than those made of wood and pewter.

Ergo, if Catherine hadn’t married Charles and said ‘You crummy English should drink hot tea like we civilised Portuguese do,’ I almost certainly wouldn’t exist.

And here's a view of my home town during its heyday. The big smoky things are bottle kilns in which the pottery was fired. (They're called bottle kilns because of their shape, just in case you're wondering, not because bottles were made in them.) And all because of Catherine.

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